From the glow stick wars to the transfixing light shows to the epic three-day festivals, Phish are still one of rock’s hottest live acts. And the band is bringing their concert experience to theaters with Phish 3-D, a visceral two-hour-plus movie that captures all the pot smoke, noodle dancing and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ full Exile on Main Street from the band’s 2009 Festival 8 in Indio, California.
Judging by a sold-out preview screening in Brooklyn, New York on April 20th, fans seem as eager to check out the movie as they do the group’s live shows: hundreds of Phish heads flocked to the capacity engagement, tossing around glow sticks and balloons and jumping out of their seats to sing along to tunes like “Tweezer.” Meanwhile, previews in other major cities (including Chicago, Denver and Boston) were sold-out weeks before. The movie rolls out nationwide on April 30th.
To capture the band in all their 3-D glory, the jam kings enlisted Action 3D Productions to cover Festival 8. The undertaking was massive: over the course of three days, the crew set up seven different rigs fitted with 14 cameras and filmed over 198 hours of footage from the crowd and onstage. “3-D hasn’t been an outdoor experience, in terms of production,” says producer Wayne Miller. “And working with 3-D technology and Phish’s concert lighting was a challenge, but it was something we had to figure out because [the lighting] is so integral to the Phish concert.”
All the hard work has resulted not just in a thrilling movie-going experience but also the most intimate view yet of the band at work. This is the first time fans can see guitarist Trey Anastasio, keyboardist Page McConnell, bassist Mike Gordon and drummer Jon Fishman up close as they perform: guitar nerds will flip to see Anastasio’s intricate shredding skills; tight shots of drummer Jon Fishman make it seem like the viewer is actually sitting with him in the drum kit. “That was the whole goal,” says executive producer Jeff Lewis. “Whether it’s allowing you to see their facial expressions or guitar frets of the band communicating while they’re playing, you don’t get that in the live situation.”
Over the course of the three-day weekend, the crew captured 17 hours of live music, and much of that was left on the cutting room floor, including backstage and rehearsal footage. (Miller says the band was closely involved in editing the movie: “We had a lead-in with B-roll shots and they said they didn’t want them in there. They wanted it to be just about the concert. That’s what they were going for.”) But Miller notes that there is potential this footage will make it to DVD, or to another theatrical release. “We’re talking to the band about that now,” he says. “There’s a lot of work that we have. It could be another feature or a DVD, but that’s really up to the band now.”